Service done by dedicated few
February 27, 2009
Filed under Archives
On Feb. 9 the Corporation for National and Community Service placed Guilford on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for the second consecutive year because its students have completed at least 60,000 hours of service each year.In the news report on Guilford’s Web site President Kent Chabotar congratulates the college for this accomplishment: “On behalf of the Guilford community, I am deeply proud of this accomplishment . This is a hallmark of the Guilford education and reinforces our core values of community, justice and stewardship.”
But I hear other responses to the achievement. For example:
“Guilford students and faculty love calling attention to the community service awards we have as a college, but most do no form of service themselves,” said sophomore Megan Snider, a Bonner student and a tutor at African Services Coalition and Latino Impact.
Guilty. This year I have not contributed a single hour of community service, and therefore I do not feel comfortable taking credit for this accomplishment as part of the collective “Guilford community.”
I am ashamed to admit that I use my busy schedule as an excuse not to do community service, when I should be more honest and say that service has not been a priority to me.
When confronted with the opportunity to do service I tend to overuse the phrase “I am too busy.” I use it so much that I had even started to believe it.
“Most students I know who do service work on and off campus, have a full load of classes, demanding majors and still manage to make time to support the community, do their homework and get to bed at a reasonable time,” said sophomore and African Services Coalition volunteer and Bonner student Laura Pates.
Impressive. And because I know many of these students, I know that this is true. However, how can this be possible for the rest of us who are jobless and still struggle to finish papers on time?
“When I first came to Guilford I thought it would be impossible to do so many hours of work and still keep up with my classes,” said Pates, “but it comes down to two simple things: time management and commitment.”
While I have greatly progressed at time management over the years, I could still improve. But when it comes to commitment to service, I realized that I had none.
According to James Shields, director of the Bonner Center for Community Learning, over half of the 60 Bonner students exceed their 140 hour per semester requirement and end up with over 300 hours per year.
Sophomore Juliet Carrington is a Bonner student and volunteers at Glen Haven and Latino Impact.
“It is not about the hours that we log,” said Carrington, who completed over 400 hours of service last year. “These children are so important to me. They trust me and talk to me about troubles at school and with family. I am their friend and someone who can get them inspired and motivated.”
Snider said that commitment is what keeps her going.
“I have made a commitment to my service and . it has transformed who I am,” said Snider. “I feel like I do so much more than just ‘help a child with their homework.’ I am a mentor, a friend and the kids I tutor are my babies; they teach me way more than I could ever teach them.”
I realized that I believe that I am too busy because I don’t set service on top of my priority list, and therefore, don’t make time for it in my schedule.
After talking to Megan, Laura, Juliet and others, I had a breakthrough.
First of all, “I am too busy” is a lame excuse, considering that I do have a Facebook account and I am not a stranger to nightclubs.
And secondly, I realized that I need to rewrite my list of priorities and through a self-discernment process I needed to figure out where service fits in my life.
Before I could go through this process, I had to do some research.
I contacted Megan and Laura and we arranged that I would go with them to their African family, who are refugees from Sudan.
“Megan and Laura are family to us,” said Snider and Pates’ Sudanese “mother.” “They have been with us for two years. I can’t imagine not having them in our lives. My kids love them, and I can call them anytime and they will come.”
I instantly connected with the family and have been thinking about them each day. I have arranged to visit them again.
I gained a deep admiration of Laura, Megan, Juliet and the rest. I found the work that they do inspiring, their spirits nourishing and their outlook optimistic. Service is in their hearts.
And I realized that more than anything, I wanted service in mine.
I have made a commitment to do service at least once a week and I urge you to do the same. Or I at least urge you not to ever use the phrase “I am too busy.” It would be more honest to say “service is not a priority to me.